Digital camera effects from A-Z

Digital camera effects from A-Z

26 digital camera effects and techniques to help you get more creative with your DSLR. From abstracts to zoom bursts, there’s sure to be an in-camera effect you’ll want to try.

Photoshop is great for enhancing and adding effects to your images, but nothing beats capturing it all in-camera in the first place. With that in mind, here’s our A-Z of 26 fantastic digital camera effects and tricks you can try today.

Digital camera effects from A-Z

A is for Abstract

What is it?
Arguably, all creative photography is about making the world look more abstract. Shooting in black and white, for instance, can be seen as a way of capturing a more abstract reality (as can many of the other camera effects in our A to Z). One of the simplest ways of finding abstracts, however, is to simply zoom in to include just a small part of the scene in front of you. The viewer sees familiar subjects in a fresh way, being forced to look closely to work out what he or she is looking at.

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
Look for patterns and bright colours, and then crop in close so these are shown in isolation.

Step by step how to use Bulb mode to shoot star trails: Step 1

B is for Bulb

What is it?
The B (or bulb) setting on your camera can only be accessed in Manual (M) exposure mode. It allows you to set super-long exposures lasting minutes – or even hours. The shutter stays open for as long as you keep the shutter release button pressed down. As such long exposures require a tripod, you need to use a remote cable release with a lockable switch to avoid jogging the tripod during the long exposure (find out how to Get the perfect exposure for light trails).

Special camera kit:
Cable release or remote (such as Canon’s RS-60 or Nikon’s MC-DC2)

Shooting tips:
For an interesting effect, shoot using the Bulb setting from the dashboard of a moving car to create an abstract pattern of lights. Use shutter speeds of around a minute at f/11, ISO100. Let someone else drive!

Silhouette_photography_tips_photo_ideas_NIK12.zone_2.csc7694

C is for Contre-jour

What is it?
Contre-jour is French for ‘against daylight’, and is used to refer to images taken directly into the main source of light. If you expose for the bright background the subject will invariably be ‘underexposed’, and may even be completely silhouetted, as in our example. If you expose for the subject, the background will be overexposed, and may produce a rim-light around the subject, which can be effective when shooting portraits (see R is for Rim light).

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
When shooting at sunrise and sunset, keep an eye out for shapes that might make for an interesting silhouette. Silhouettes make for very graphic images, emphasising line and shape at the expense of texture and detail.

digital-camera-effects-a-z-dutch-tilt

D is for Dutch tilt

What is it?
Dutch tilt is simply changing the angle at which a photograph is taken. Tilting your camera is an effective way of making images look more dramatic: in motor sports, the track appears steeper and more exciting; in portraiture, a jaunty angle can create tension and help bring straightforward portraits to life (see more in our 10 rules of photo composition (and why they work).

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
Think about how much to tilt your camera, considering what elements to leave in and leave out. When there are horizontal lines in your shots, try angling your digital camera so they run diagonally to or from one of the corners.

52 photography projects: a photo idea to try every week in 2015 - water drops

E is for Edgerton

What is it?
Harold Edgerton is the pioneer of electronic flash and high-speed photography. Thanks to his work, it’s possible to freeze subjects using a burst of flash. A flashgun controls the amount of light it emits by how long it lasts. Its minimum setting, lasting about 1/50,000 sec, will allow you to capture water droplets and milk splashes with relative ease; the difficulty is in the timing. The same technique can freeze a speeding bullet – but the advantage of household liquids is that you can keep taking pictures until you get the shot you want, without the need for a specialist triggering system (make your own Amazing water drop photography).

Special camera kit:
Hotshoe flashgun with off-camera sync cable. Lots of spare batteries…

Shooting tips:
Set up the scene so that the drips are constant, with the exposure and focus set manually. This helps increase your hit rate – but expect lots of misses.

SEE MORE: 77 photography techniques, tips and tricks for taking pictures of anything

What to consider when buying one of these Canon lenses… the right fisheye

F is for Fisheye

What is it?
A fisheye is a specialist wide-angle lens that produces a distorted image with an extreme angle of view. There are two types of fisheye lens: full-field fisheyes fill the whole frame with an image that bows out at the edges; circular fisheyes are more extreme – giving a round, central image with a 180° angle of view, such as the shot below.

Special camera kit:
We used a Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye, which costs £575, but which can be hired for under £50 for a week from the likes of www.lensesforhire.co.uk.

Shooting tips:
Use Partial metering when using a circular fisheye – and take great care not to scratch the bulbous front element.

The Grainy B/W Creative Effect produces some fantastic results

The Grainy B/W Creative Effect produces some fantastic results

G is for Grain

What is it?
In the days before digital, ‘grain’ was the term used to describe the granular clumps in the film emulsion. In digital photography, it describes the visible electronic noise in the picture. Grain increases with ISO, and while it can be unwanted, it can also be used creatively to convey mood or exaggerate textures. It’s especially effective when trying to mimic the look of grainy black-and-white prints.

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
Bump up ISO and try reportage-style shots converted to black and white.

Nikon Users: how to set up your DSLR for high-speed sync

H is for High-speed sync

What is it?
High-speed sync refers to the shutter speed at which a flash will work – or sync – with your camera. If high-speed sync isn’t set, flash units will only work successfully at shutter speeds up to around 1/250 sec – this is only really an issue if you want to use a flash in bright conditions and want to use a wide aperture.

Special camera kit:
A flash with a high-speed sync (HSS).

Shooting tips:
In our example, an aperture of f/4 at ISO 100 needed a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. We wanted to add a burst of fill-flash to soften shadows and add a catch-light, so we set HSS to make the flash sync successfully at a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec.

How to shoot time-lapse photography at home

I is for Intervalometer

What is it?
Shooting a subject at regular intervals allows you to show you how it changes over time. It’s a great technique for making a time-lapse sequence of a plant growing – or to show something rotting away with age…

Special camera kit:
Try a cable release with an interval shooting function, such as the Hähnel Giga T Pro (£80). Some software packages also includes an intervalometer, such as the EOS Utility program supplied with Canon cameras.

Shooting tips:
It can be hard to work out how long you need between each shot, however, it is better to have more shots than you need than to miss a decisive stage.

SEE MORE: How to use a camera: exposure modes made simple

 

Panograph_Photoshop_effects_Elements_tutorial_NIK22.zone_5.panographsidebar

J is for Joiner

What is it?
The joiner effect was made popular by the artist David Hockney – and has become a lot easier to do in the Photoshop era, as each ‘tile’ can be stretched and cloned so that you can’t see the joins. However, it can be fun to go old-school – shooting a scene in bits, then sticking prints on a piece of card. The rough-and-ready look, with imprecise alignment, can add to the effect – as in our shot of Durdle Dor.

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
Practise how many shots you will need to cover a scene, ensuring that you get a decent amount of overlap between each shot.

SEE MORE: 10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

K is for Kaleidoscope

What is it?
A kaleidoscope uses mirrors to create a coloured pattern from simple subjects. For a similar effect with your camera, make a tube using a sheet of silver card or mirror plastic that will fit over the front element of your lens. Now simply aim this at a coloured subject and see the colour spread out.

Special camera kit:
A macro lens works best, allowing you to fill the screen with a more abstract pattern (find out How to set your autofocus for macro photography). We used a sheet of silver corrugated plastic (costing 50p) from a craft shop.

Shooting tips:
If the front element of your lens is recessed, roll up the tube so it fits in the recess. This creates a better centre circle for the effect.

SEE MORE: Histogram: photography cheat sheets for achieving perfect exposure

digital-camera-effects-a-z-lensbaby

L is for Lensbaby

What is it?
The Lensbaby is a lens that creates a small ‘sweet spot’ of focus then gradually blurs out everything around that area. Using a clever bending and pivoting mid-section, the Lensbaby can move the sweet spot of focus around the frame, without you having to change position. This gives an out-of-focus area that looks more like radial or motion blur than the effects you can achieve with aperture and depth of field (find out how to Master depth of field in 8 steps).

Special camera kit:
We used the Lensbaby Composer (approx £155) for our shot.

Shooting tips:
The Lensbaby is manual-focus only. A tripod can help to steady your hand and maintain strong focus, even on moving subjects (see our 4 tips for sharper shots when using a tripod).

 

Camera tricks: how to make fake moonlight photos in-camera

M is for Mock moonlight

What is it?
‘Mock moonlight’ or ‘day for night’ is an old television effect to give an impression of night without the expense. A daylight scene is shot using filters to give a strong blue tone. To do this with a digital camera, simply set the white balance to Tungsten, then underexpose by setting exposure compensation of -2.

Special camera kit:
None needed, but you can increase the effect by adding a blue-coloured ‘cool down’ filter.

Shooting tips:
For more a more realistic high-contrast night effect, shoot into the light. The sun can even be made to look like a full moon, if it is very low in the sky.

SEE MORE: Night photography tips: 9 essential steps for beginners

How to stack multiple filters for better seascape photos: step 6

N is for Neutral Density

What is it?
A Neutral Density (or ND) filter limits the light reaching your digital camera’s sensor, enabling you to obtain slower shutter speeds to capture motion-blur effects – ideal when shooting in broad daylight at your narrowest available aperture results in shutter speeds too fast to capture a sense of movement. ND filters also enable you use wider apertures in very bright conditions, where the camera would normally indicate overexposure.

Special camera kit:
Try a 3-stop ND filter (ND9); you may need to use two filters at once. B+W make a 10-stop ND filter (from £34). You’ll definitely need a tripod.

Shooting tips:
Set the shutter speed to 1 sec for slight movement or 10 secs for increased movement. A cable release will help you avoid nudging your camera.

SEE MORE: A layman’s guide to ND filters

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: how to deliberately overexpose the highlights using Photoshop Elements to get a stunning effect

O is for Overexposure

What is it?
It may seem strange that we’re encouraging you to take overexposed shots on purpose, but it’s a great photographic effect to have in your skills arsenal. If used correctly you can end up with dreamy, ethereal images.

Special camera kit:
None.

Shooting tips:
It’s important to pick the right sort of subject or scene that will lend itself to being overexposed; look for light tones and shoot when the sun is low in the sky. Shoot in Av (Aperture Priority) mode and use exposure compensation to dial in +1 or +2 stops of extra exposure to brighten up your results. Shooting well-lit scenes or straight into the sun will enhance this effect.

panning

P is for Panning

What is it?
Panning is a method of capturing a sense of movement by tracking a subject with a slow shutter speed as it moves past you. It works superbly when photographing action sports to emphasise the speed of motion (or learn How to fake perfect panning photos).

Special kit:
Monopod (optional).

Shooting tips:
Set a relatively slow shutter speed of around 1/40-1/100 sec. Switch to your camera’s Continuous Shooting mode. Track your subjects using your camera’s continuous autofocus mode, pivoting in a smooth 180º arc, and shooting continuously as your subjects whizz past. A monopod can help produce smoother results.

SEE MORE: Famous Photographers: 225 tips to inspire you

Q is for QuickTime

What is it?
A QuickTime Virtual Reality movie is a way of combining multiple images to create a seamless 360º panorama that can be toggled left or right to provide a virtual tour of a scene. They are popular with museums.

Special camera kit:
QuickTime player (www.quicktime.com) and some movie creation software, like Pano2VR (www.gardengnomesoftware.com).

Shooting tips:
You need to shoot a series of source images that can be merged seamlessly to produce a two-dimensional panorama. The key to getting seamless panoramas is to use a tripod, keep your camera level for every shot and overlap images by at least 30%. Shoot in Manual exposure mode to ensure consistency between the shots.

Studio Lighting Techniques: rim lighting

R is for Rim light

What is it?
Rim light illuminates a subject from behind, often to make the subject stand out from the background, but sometimes to bring out detail in otherwise-hidden areas. Rim lighting can occur naturally from the sun or other ambient light, or can be created in a studio. It is particularly useful for revealing the texture of hair and fur.

Special camera kit:
If shooting in a studio, you may want to use a single modelling light.

Shooting tips:
To avoid lens flare and lower contrast, rim lighting should be used behind the subject, slightly higher than the camera. It helps if your subject is blocking the light entirely, but you can use a shade to assist.

Using slow-sync flash at night: example with slow-sync flash

Slow-sync flash

S is for Slow-sync flash

What is it?
A burst of flash is often used to freeze action, but it can also be used more effectively to convey a sense of movement. By combining flash with a slower shutter speed, you’ll be able to freeze-frame your subject while the longer exposure gives them a ghostly trail.

Special camera kit:
Flashgun (optional), tripod.

Shooting tips:
For full control, switch to Manual mode and use a shutter speed of 1/4 to 1 sec, depending on how fast your subject is moving, adjusting your aperture for an even exposure. Normally your flash fires at the start of your exposure (known as 1st Curtain Sync) – switch to 2nd Curtain Sync to fire the flash at the end of the exposure. This way, the trails captured by the longer exposure will be behind the subject, rather than in front of it.

52 photography projects: a photo idea to try every week in 2015 - tilt shift effect

T is for Tilt-shift

What is it?
Tilt-shift lenses are used in architecture for photographing tall buildings without converging verticals. Used creatively, they can be used to selectively focus on a very narrow slice of a scene, which can make real-world scenes look like tiny models.

Special camera kit:
Canon’s TS-E lenses cost upwards of £800, but can be hired for around £65 for a week at www.lensesforhire.co.uk.

Shooting tips:
Get high up and set an extreme degree of horizontal tilt. Use a wide aperture so the foreground and background are thrown out of focus.

Creative_portrait_ideas_sci-fi_mainimage

U is for UV light

What is it?
UV lamps or ‘dark lights’ are popular in nightclubs, their peculiar purple lighting making white clothes and other things glow in the dark. This effect can be captured with your DSLR. The output from these lights is low, so if photographing people turn up your ISO to around 1000, use a tripod, and get your subjects to stay still.

Special camera kit:
We used two UV dark lights from Maplin, costing £29.99 each; they also sell black-light bulbs (from £4.49).

Shooting tips:
It can be hard to predict which materials show up best in UV light. White man-made fibres and fluoro plastics work well – but experiment as you can get unexpected successes (tonic water is very effective, for instance).

vaseline-blur-before

V is for Vaseline

What is it?
An old-fashioned, rather crude way of producing softer shots was to coat the end of a lens with Vaseline (or petroleum jelly). It was popular with portrait photographers back in the day, and can also be used to create softness around your subjects for an artistic, romantic effect.

Special camera kit:
A pot of petroleum jelly and a filter.

Shooting tips:
Do not rub Vaseline straight onto you lens! First attach a UV or skylight filter, then use a tissue to smoothly apply a thin film over the filter, leaving a clear area in the middle.

How to paint with light using your iPad or tablet

W is for Writing with light

What is it?
By using a slow shutter speed in low-light conditions, it’s possible to capture light trails from almost any light source, be it car headlamps or bright fireworks. Writing with light is a little less spontaneous however, and involves using a torch to draw out an image or write a sentence during the long exposure.

Special camera kit:
A sturdy tripod and a bright torch. We used a cheap mini LED torch that cost just £2.69 and gave great results.

Shooting tips:
The best backdrop for light writing is a blank wall, or a dark night sky. Make sure that your torch is facing the camera then draw, write, or run in front of your background to create different trails.

Create rainbow cross-polarisation effects using your iPad

X is for X-polarisation

What is it?
Cross-polarisation is a way of turning the invisible stress patterns in pieces of transparent plastic into a visible rainbow pattern. Use a polarised light source, then photograph the plastic through a polarising filter.

Special camera kit:
A lightbox makes a great light source. Polarise the light by laying polarising film over it (£21.75 for a 30x10cm sheet, www.greenweld.co.uk). You’ll also need a circular polarising filter.

Shooting tips:
As ever when using a polarising filter, you need to rotate it to get the best effect.

Black and white photography tips: use a yellow filter

Y is for Yellow filter

What is it?
With black and white film, colour filters were used to dictate how different colours in the scene were converted to mono, ensuring the result wasn’t a wash of dull midtones. The monochrome effects on digital SLRs let you recreate these filter effects. Choosing the yellow filter option darkens skies and makes white clouds stand out, while producing natural-looking results.

Special camera kit:
None

Shooting tips:
Shoot in RAW, then you still get a colour image to use for more precise mono conversion during editing, if necessary.

Nikon lenses: zoom burst

Z is for Zoom burst

What is it?
Twisting your zoom as you’re taking a photo produces an explosive rush of colour, drawing the viewer into your image with clever use of blur to create a sense of movement.

Special camera kit:
A standard zoom lens (your kit lens will be perfect) and a tripod, if you want to ensure your blurred radial lines are straighter.

Shooting tips:
Look for colourful subjects, such as flower beds. Set a slow shutter speed, around 1/4 to 1/15 sec, focus on the central subject and start zooming out just before pressing the shutter button, zooming smoothly throughout the entire exposure.

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